11 Ways to Better Immunity

Hippocrates, known as the “father of medicine,” is known for saying “Let thy food be thy medicine and let thy medicine be thy food.”

While some believe catching colds in cold season is just what you do, we love that you know there are some things you can do to fortify your family.   …cause an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.

*Please seek the advice of a health professional prior to self-treating any illness with medicinal herbs.

1. Raw Foods

Raw foods are chock full of enzymes and vitamins that can be damaged or destroyed completely by heat.  Many people today eat very little fruits and vegetables, and even less are eating these in their natural state.  Consuming more raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds gives the body more of a fighting edge as they help to optimize the overall health of the body while strengthening its resilience.  While some foods are made more palatable and/or digestible by cooking, most fruits and vegetables can be turned into gorgeous, colorful, delectable dishes with no heat in no time.

2. Probiotics & Prebiotics

Health experts estimate that anywhere from 60-80% of your immune work happens in the gut.  An unhealthy gut can put the body in overload mode and make it more susceptible to sickness.  Many parents have had great success in boosting their children’s immunity by including prebiotics and probiotics in their diets.  Probiotics are the “good bacteria” found in the intestines that kill the bad bacteria.  It is especially important to replenish probiotics in the digestive tract if you’ve used antibiotics, which kill the good bacteria with the bad.  Prebiotics are a special form of dietary fiber that nourishes the probiotics in the gut.  Supplements can be purchased that contain both, however, you can also give those tummies a regular boost through simple, everyday foods.

Probiotics:  Make sure the food/beverage you are purchasing for these contain LIVE CULTURES.  Probiotics can be destroyed by heat and time. So, the fresher, the better.  Its good to get an array of good gut flora (different strains will be listed with the ingredients).  Find these in kefir (milk, water or juice), yogurt, kombucha, fermented juices (no, I’m not telling you to pour jr. a glass of wine.  Many grocers now carry juices with live cultures for gut health); raw cheese, and other raw fermented foods, like sauerkraut, beet kvass and others.  Again, be sure the product was not pasteurized post-fermentation.  Many companies do this to yield a product with the right flavor and a longer shelf life.  Probiotics are living organisms that are useless to you dead.

Prebiotics: This is another area where raw foods are key.  Raw foods, such as bananas, garlic and asparagus are all excellent sources of the undigestible fibers that promote the growth of probiotics in the intestines.

3. Elderberry (Sambucus)

Known for being loaded powerful antioxidants and immune boosting properties, elderberry has long ranked high on the list of go-to remedies for health professionals and moms alike.  Elderberry has been used for centuries for coughs, colds, flus, bacterial and viral infections and tonsilitis.  Its bioflavanoids and other proteins are said to diminish/destroy the ability of cold and flu viruses to infect the body’s cells.  Israel’s Hasassah’s Oncology Lab has determined that elderberry stimulates the body’s immune system so efficiently that they’re using it to treat cancer and AIDS patients with it.

Elderberry is sold as a tasty syrup for kids and adults.  Our favorite is Nature’s Way Sambucus with Echinacea.  We keep this stuff on hand for a quick immune boost when around others who are sick or at the first sight of infection.  If you happen to be thinking about making your own, please note, the berries of certain cultivars of this plant can be toxic when eaten raw.  Elderberries should be cooked down for safety, digestibility and palatability.

4. Echinacea

A well known immune booster, echinacea can be purchased as a tea, tincture, supplement or syrup.  The University of Maryland reports that several studies suggest echinacea contains substances that boost immune function, relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and have hormonal, antiviral and antioxidant effects, making it potentially useful for urinary tract infections, yeast infections, ear infections, hay fever, sinusitis, athlete’s foot, and slow-healing wounds.

Caution: Those with allergies to ragweed, chrysanthemums or marigolds should exercise caution when considering echinacea as it may trigger an allergic reaction.  Caution should also be exercised by individual’s taking immunosuppressant medication.

5. Garlic

Garlic has been used for centuries for treating a host of ailments.  It was used to prevent gangrene in the soldiers of both World Wars.  It has been used as an antiseptic and applied to wounds to prevent infection.  It is rich in antioxidants to fight off free radicals and is commonly used to kill parasites and boost the immune system, amongst many other ailments.

Raw garlic, not cooked or dried, is most beneficial for health, since heat and water inactivate sulfur enzymes, which can diminish garlic’s antibiotic effects.

6. Vitamin D3

Crucial for bone health and immunity, the body produces this when exposed to sunlight.  15 minutes a day can do wonders for people with lighter skin.  Darker skin types may require more exposure to produce sufficient amounts of Vitamin D.  D3 levels can run low in the winter but may be adequately restored by stepping into the sun with the face and hands exposed.  Vitamin D3 can also be purchased as a supplement in capsule form or in a small dissolvable tablet.

Vitamin D can also be obtained through mushrooms, eggs, dairy products and many flesh foods.

7. Joy

One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is the gift of joy.  Chronic low-joy environments are associated with many things we will be talking about in the future but, for the sake of this article, let’s just talk about how it relates to our bodies’ ability to ward off disease.  Studies consistently show links between mental/emotional disposition and health.  Pessimism, depression, constant frustrations, a negative environment – all of these things way on the whole person and make the body more susceptible to disease.  Same goes for our kids.  Joy and laughter support a healthy mind and healthy body.  Don’t resist the opportunity to enjoy a good laugh and make memories you and your children will enjoy for a lifetime.

8. Water

With an estimated 90% of the population chronically dehydrated, this point certainly warrants the space.  Water is critical for good heath, especially when it comes to immunity.  Water oxygenates blood, flushes out toxins, supports lymph production (critical in immune response), keeps eyes and mouth clean, aids digestion and assimilation, prevents and aids many chronic ailments.  As much as possible, spring waters and home-filtered waters should chosen over municipal water thats often laden with a toxic excess of flouride, as well as chemical disinfecting agents and other chemicals that are less than supportive to the immune system.

9. Exercise 

Exercise works wonders for the body, including boosting immunity.  Our bodies have more lymph than blood but, unlike the blood flowing through the heart, the lymphatic system has no pump.  The lymphatic system is responsible for transporting white blood cells to fight infection.  The lymphatic system relies on your body movement.  Do your kids seem bounce everywhere like mine do?  While there’s a time and a place for all things, I try not to dissuade them when I can help it as bouncing is one of the best ways to get lymph moving through the body.  Even a steady, gentle bounce on a small rebounder can be of great benefit.

10. Rest 

While I know you’re busy and life has more demands coming at you than you can shake a stick at, hear me when I tell you – you’ve got to make time for rest.  It is crucial that you not only get your 7-8 hours sleep a night but that you also set aside a day to take it easy each week.  I’m a mom too.  I totally get it.  I’ve struggled with this more times than I can count and it doesn’t take long for it to catch up with me either. The body has to have time to cleanse and repair itself and it needs rest to do this.  This is especially true for children as they have the added demand of growing and learning so much.

11. Sweets 

I know, this is the tough one for so many and kids especially love their sweets but avoiding sugary foods is especially important for the immune system.  Studies have shown that sugar consumption can inhibit the immune system for upwards to 6 hours after eating it!  Boost the immune system with naturally sweet substitutes.  If “super-sweet” is a “must,” try dates (especially Medjools).  They are especially good with a touch of almond/nut butter smeared down the center and can totally satisfy a craving for a decadent dessert with only a few.  Stevia can also help to decrease sugar consumption without the threat of mutiny for suddenly removing sugar from the household.

12 Tips on How to Get That Butt Back in Gear

If there’s one challenge I think most moms face among the many other challenges of parenting, its how to stay motivated to keep fitness a consistent part of an already jam-packed life.  When we do find a few free moments, working out is often the last thing we want to do.

 One thing I’ve learned in parenting is that fitness is not just key in taking our bodies back, it is unbeatable when it comes to relieving the accumulated day-to-day stress.  Still sticking to it can be a real struggle.  Here are my tips on how to maintain motivation, even amidst the chaos.

1. Fix Your Inner Dialogue

adult attractive black and white face

The biggest part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is fixing your inner dialogue (and that WILL require ongoing maintenance).  That means changing how you talk TO and ABOUT yourself.  Negative talk and a negative view will negate your efforts and make any health & fitness plan unsustainable. Any time you start thinking things like “I’m fat and out of shape” shut it down with “no.  I’m healthier than I’ve been in a long time and steadily getting stronger/faster/fitter/hotter.” In the strain of it, reject “I’m tired…it hurts…I can’t do this…”  Envision the results you WILL attain and remind yourself “I’ve got this!”

2.  Schedule it!

You and I both know that if you don’t make time, you won’t find time!  Schedule other meetings and appointments around it.  You’re already booked for that block of time.  Be dressed and ready on time!  Getting out of those comfy pants in the morning and into those sneakers can really help reset your mindset and get you geared for what you’ve commited to do.

3.  Commit to 10

Commit to at least 10 minutes, agreeing with yourself that even when you don’t want to do it at all, you’ll do at least 10 minutes.  Odds are high that you won’t just quit by that point, you’ll keep pushing and even if you don’t, you still brought the effort and reinforced making fitness a daily/weekly habit.  Trust me.  There are days when it’s the last thing I want to do but sometimes I just have to pop that disc in and have it staring me in the face for me to say ug!  Alright, alright already…I’ll do it!

4.  Find Your Soul Mate Workout

woman punching red heavy bag

If you hate it, you’ll dread it. I’ve done so many different kinds, yet I keep going back to that TurboFire because it’s fun to me. I love kickboxing and dancing so it’s right up my alley. When I’m wanting to take it slow but get a good sweat, I break out PiYo or Body Beast.  (Not trying to promote BeachBody.  I don’t sell it.  These are just my personal faves.) Some prefer running solo and using the time to escape while some prefer a class setting where others push them to work harder. You’ve got to find this for yourself and when you do, it won’t seem so much like work but something you feel proud to be good and getting better at.

5.  Mix It Up

Even when you really love one workout in particular, you still need to mix things up to keep it from getting boring and to maximize your results.  Many find that they “plateau” after a long period of doing the same workout.  Make sure you shake things up a bit and get a fair share of stretch, strength and cardio work.

Also, don’t miss opportunities to slip movement in throughout the day. It doesn’t have to be all at once. Tell your body it’s time to step up its game by placing more demands on it. It will do what it’s been made it to do.

6.  Watch Where You’re Going

Look more at your progress than the distance yet to be traveled.   Looking ahead should be with hope, excitement and determination, not with overwhelm. Looking at it in terms of how far you are from where you want to be makes it to easy to ditch the effort.  Thinking in terms of how much closer you are to where you want to be is a good motivator to stick to it.

When you say “no. I’ve already lost 10 lbs and I AM NOT going back,” it will help you stay on track and may just give you the boost you need to take each work out to a whole new level.

7.  Clear the Closet

shallow focus photography of clothes

Get rid of the clothes you’ve shrunk out of and buy at least one thing you love one size too small.  I’ve steadily done this from a 16/18 to a 4/6. Keeping the big clothes “just in case” is the same as giving yourself permission to go back and undo all you’ve worked so hard to achieve!  It’s another way of calling your ability to stick to it into question which ABSOLUTELY primes you for failure and self-loathing.

Getting rid of the old is a way of determining you’re not going back there so there’s no point in keeping “the big girl clothes” while buying the new will help with motivation and make you feel ecstatic and really good about yourself when you get to wear it for the first time.

8.  Fuel Up

If you want to crush a workout, you’ve got to fuel for it!  Under-fueling amidst a workout routine is a key factor in failure.  If you don’t have the energy to do it, you will feel like it is an impossible feat.  You’ll drag, ache and burnout quicker than a matchstick if you don’t give your body the fuel it needs to power through.  While a calorie-deficit will help you lose weight, inadequate caloric-intake prior to a workout may just break you.

Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel source – especially simple ones!  Think fresh fruits and smoothies.  If you’re in for a long-haul, adding complex carbs (like oats or whole grains) can help you fuel up with sustainable energy.  Proteins are harder to break down, taxing more energy for digestion and, consequently, leaving less energy for you to step up and bring it.  Fatty foods (even healthy ones), pre-workout, slow the body down even more so than proteins.  Simple carbs will provide your body with that quick burst of energy it needs as you step onto the track, into the gym or up to the plate in your own home.

9.  Set the Pace

Think about a fitness plan in terms of what you’re establishing not just for yourself but in your kids’ lives as well. Think about the kind of life you want them to live and realize that one of the best things you can do for them is to lead by example.  You want them to be healthy.  You want them to be strong.  And, you sure don’t want them to be afraid to grab the bull by the horns to accomplish their greatest goals in life.  Show ’em how it’s done!

My daughter has become my favorite workout buddy and her younger brother has been getting in on the action too.  When we go for it, even on the days that its evident to all that we REALLY don’t want to, we teach our kids valuable lessons about what can be accomplished by pushing past the I-don’t-wanna’s and holding tightly to “I CAN AND I WILL!”

Exercise is not just about weight!  It will boost their immunity, intellectual capacities and their confidence!  Now tell me that in itself isn’t worth it!

10.  See the Line Between Self-Sacrifice & Self-Neglect

You’re a mom.  I get it.  You give and you give and you give.  You try to put your family’s needs before your own and because of that, it’s often hard to justify taking time away from their needs to focus on you.  Still, there’s a great deception at play here.  What we so often fail to realize is that in taking that little extra time and effort to care for ourselves protects our capacity to continue to serve our families at our best.  It also helps to relieve them of the future burden of caring for us as they would if we let ourselves go, especially when the consequences eventually render us incapable of taking care of ourselves.  That may seem like it’s a long way ahead but you can’t even count those who’ve watched time slip through their fingers only to find themselves later where they’d hoped they’d never be, saying “I wish I’d have taken better care of myself back then.”

11.  Know When to Press & When to Rest

When starting a new fitness plan, it can be so tempting to go all in day-in-day-out.  We get frustrated and say, “that’s it!  I’m nipping this in the bud right now!”  While determination is absolutely a good thing, be mindful of what your body can and can’t handle.  Here’s the thing – too many people have a tendency to set unrealistic goals only to find themselves soon swimming in regret, frustration and feeling like a failure.  There’s an old saying “Slow and steady wins the race.”  If you know you can crush it, go for it!  But, be careful that you don’t push yourself right into a rapid burnout by trying to climb too high too fast.

You won’t get results without a challenge, so, by all means, challenge yourself.  But, if you start feeling overly burdened to the point that you’re thinking about quitting, pull back a bit but keep moving forward.  Start with just a few days a week or give yourself some “easy” days where you commit to doing something while feeling like you’re catching a break.  As you move forward, you’ll get stronger and find that you have an easier time committing to more intense workouts.

Also, if you’re under the weather and feel like you’re fighting something other than laziness, don’t be afraid to lay back and let your body do what it needs to to get you back up to speed.  It’s better to miss one day and be refreshed the next than to overdo it one day and be down the next week.

12.  Remember That You’re Awesome & Be Kind to Yourself!

You’ve been through a lot and are in your upswing.  Stop beating yourself up every time you have an off day!  It’s so easy to miss a day and say “screw it” the rest of the week because you blew your “perfect record.”  Instead, let the off-day establish the certainty that you will be right back on your game the next.  Fitness isn’t about punishing yourself.  It’s about loving yourself and your family enough to take care of your body.

So many people throw in the towel and resign to the slippery slope of just letting the body fall apart as the years tick by.  Not you!  You’re crushing it!  You’re bringin’ it!  You’ve got the Healthiest Mom on the Block Award coming your way!